Category Archives: Context

Martian Shock Therapy…

Thematic Semantics: Point A—

Flap you b@#$%&?!

Rod Hull

taster of london with nick 05Since its inception, I’ve found myself plodding along at a far steadier pace than I had intended— especially after a lay off as long I had; but I’m pretty sure I’m enjoying myself upon more than just similar lines. As such I’m more than willing to play more. If one is able to do after all— it’s criminal not to; so do, is what I’m doing.

I had intended to weave a little Welles into my thoughts— but it’s far too important a thing to have lost, wasted in ridiculous so soon without a little context to grease the tracks first— besides, if I keep it up, I’ll have exceeded half of all the probabilities I’d originally set myself, and in the hood of all likeliness— I’ll be lucky to fill the other.

Although, that being said, I do have the odd treat up my sleeve— it’s not as if I have it planned as much as it’s more a case of learning to fly again by jumping out of a plane with someone with a parachute beside me asking, with some urgency I might add, ‘why aren’t you flapping?’

So, from the springboard of planes and parachutes, it’s quite possible to take monkeys, aliens, world-domination and even woman around a peculiar semantic merry-go-round; such are the contextual marvels of alternative thought. But like all good things, we must start at point A. And for the next few days I’ll be following a thematic-chain which will no doubt lead me right back to here, past through and perhaps over some of these most inevitable of categories.

The reason for my desired launchpad is owing to the quasi-obssession I’ve had for many years with the first 45 minutes of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. It has a tendency to collapse in on itself during the second half which is hardly a crime as there have been many very good works falling short of greatness owing to a lack of lustre in their final third— but for three quarters of an hour we are treated to one of the greatest voices there’s ever been narrating away with his life, very much in the balance— we even get to hear him say whoosh— which makes the fee for the CD alone, worth an admission.

If I had Richard Burton’s voice for a day, I would make my million and retire— so long as my ‘million’ was pounds and not just trilbies for a secret army of chimps; which would be quite ridiculous. There’s not a scenario I can imagine where I’d actually be able to keep an army of chimps secret. And it’s not through a lack of trying.

Anywise, the Martians have this great war-cry. Actually, it’s the only thing they do say, which is probably why they’re so angry and destructive in the first place: it’s a cry for help, an out-shout for a better vocabulary: we want your planet and your dictionary. It certainly resonates far stronger with me, than some nonsense about the proliferation of their species.

But instead they caught a cold. But not before crying ooohlaaa! a few times, which is actually pretty creepy as it is. However, if you isolate it; run it through a few filters, transpose it a little then play it a little louder than is really necessary, it becomes positively disturbing. And what is especially alarming is if you allow your computer to cry it out whenever it feels like it.

Half a dozen times a day I used to hear it and every time I’d get one of those wtf moments— you’d expect after a while that the nerves would take a bit of a shredding, but it actually became quite therapeutic, particularly when it provided an excuse to leak sentences…

And with that, we’ll just have to see where it takes us.

We will peck them to death to-morrow, my dear…

H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

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Mootax & the mood-syntax button…

I never did very well in math—

I could never seem to persuade the teacher that I hadn’t meant my answers literally

Calvin Trillin

IMG_2343Sometimes the answers lie in what we choose not to say:

The calendar is stricken and reversed; as such, much better counting down to something I fancy. It is a solution most ordinary, but alternative enough had I not known of the palindrome. But no ordinary one: the alternative palindrome.

I’d start at one and on to 12, halt and return forth-with; or perhaps a pattern based upon the alternative kaleidoscope, which unlike the original model, wasn’t random at all, but split into 4 alternating groups descending by a day at a time— in multiples of 6. The alternative ‘primes’ method was considered for a few minutes but disregarded for being too stupid— but it was the only one that was.

I quite liked it at first: the idea of making something, except when it fell on a day that was ‘prime’ in which case, I just ignored it; and why not? I happen to be prime too also: divisible by myself and one. It’s not something I’d care to try— I saw Braveheart, all stretched out and screaming. So no.

It was even suggested I take a look at the ISO 8601 Original date system, a system designed to prevent confusion and the misplace of time in the future. After all, we wouldn’t want to confuse my date of birth as the year 26111976 would we. Although it wouldn’t surprise me, I’ve met few who’d have to think about it for a while. Anyway, ISO was over-ruled, not just because it was bollocks, but also mean to imbeciles. It was a conscience call.

In any event, we’ve all been in the situation where we’ve needed to write something to someone about something and have struggled. Perhaps the page in mind was too ‘industrial’ or ‘salty’ to have resolved or conveyed what ever the message should have read. It does put a dampener on things, especially if you end up sending a load of ‘unfs’ and ‘ucks’ anyway. Help should be at hand— perhaps in the form of:

The Mood-Syntax Button

Or Mootax for short. It would be an ideal addition to future generations of Word. Not that I can imagine having much faith in it were it so.

Already this morning, it’s tried to persuade me that, ‘I am divisible by myself and one is I not?’ And that ISO 8601, is ‘a system designed to prevent confusion and misplace the time of the future.’ Perhaps it was just being alternative; wasn’t it Agent Mulder who coined the phrase, I believe Microsoft Works?

That said, I do like the notion of the misplacement of time because of a computer error– not all that removed from yesterday is it?

In order for Mootax to work optimally, it would have to be used in conjunction with voice recognition software. A good barney on paper is nothing compared to one: au natural. The minute the fingers get involved there are too many rules; deflation ensues and that constant voice of reason’s forever telling you, ‘you can’t write that.’

So do not…

Switch on, log-in, ‘f’ and blind, cry, whinge, la, laugh, grit, snort or rabbit, ’til a voice you have no more. Convert it to text, highlight it and then select the appropriate mood. I think you’d have to have the option of selecting multiple moods for any passage, including an ‘and’ or ‘but’ variable. For example:

Soft but ‘pissy’ and ‘indifferent but sincere’ wouldn’t have the same ring to them were they both, and not at the expense of either. But that’s where the custom settings would come into play.

A simple questionnaire would suffice in order to capture a Mootax setting which could be pre-programmed and used whenever you felt like it.

I’d want the amnesia setting with the but of: a tendency to forget.

And for those who prefer to type: A pressure sensitive keyboard with an auto-correct facility included at no extra cost…

The who gives a #@%& pocket, more about cats & the dangers of hand-held fans…

A three piece discord—

And the cunning of the third person…

go to break earlyAs I enter the third day under the roof of ignominious, quasi-disharmony, I decided I ought best choose my words carefully in case my laptop is bugged. And though diligence is not something that comes naturally with a pen in hand, I feel it’s quite possible the being spied upon trope is not an over-reaction, and my house-guest has not gone shopping at all.

I actually considered writing this in the third person to induce ignoratio elenchi and befuddle my would-be observers, but not only would that’ve been far too weird, it would’ve contravened one of my personal laws. To describe my loathing of self-referential utterances in the third-person as rules, would be an affront to my very soul: rules are merely principals to be observed. Laws on the other hand: something to be obeyed. It is called illesim and it’s creepy. Salvador Dali did it once in a televised interview, but if you remember my piece on minimalism, he also once had to be rescued from a deep-sea divers suit with a pair of pliers…

Anyway, as I’ve accepted a luncheon invitation and’d found a suitable pause in my morning’s work, I thought I’d jot down some of my recent acquisitions, one of my old ones, skip the overture and play the second of three specially recorded: symphony of words:

I’ve discovered that it’s part of cats’ original sin to lure their owners into a down-pour wearing dressing-gowns only to be snubbed at the last moment; and playing with a hand-held-fan too close to close to someone’s hair can leave the blades entangled in it. The latter occurred last evening and I have been looking over my shoulder ever since, hence my spy-awareness.

Personally, I can’t really see what all the fuss is about, even my sister laughed, so it must’ve been a little bit funny, even though by then the turbine had actually begun to groan. There was no permanent damage and the marvellous fro-effect was upsettingly temporary.

And lastly, otherwise I’m really going to be late, is the who gives a @#$% pocket. I’d like to call it an invention, but I believe it to be a naturally occurring phenomena, something we all have; and just like addictions or imaginary friends: we just have to acknowledge it’s there. They are simple to use and needn’t be particularly large since they aren’t designed for non-specific items, as it will soon become clear.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have been questioned unnecessarily, or had to endure the dribbling of an inferior; been put on the spot with the express intention to cause yourself embarrassment? Had to suffer the nonsensical ravings of a co-worker, family friend or house-guest?

If the answer is yes, then the who gives a @#$% pocket is like a vacuum for all these things and more. You see, for Baloney Detection Networks and Hemmingway’s bullshit detector to become something more performative, they need a Ghostbusters-like containment unit.

So the next time someone you know has been savaging your ears relentlessly for a month or more about the same old rubbish and you’ve reached the limits of all fissionable care, here’s what you say:

Wait a second, let me look in my who gives a @#$% pocket

You look, then you say: nope, the @#$%er’s empty…

You see the charm and size of your imaginary compartment is both infinitely variable and irreverent because not only is it yours and yours alone, but the @#$%er’s always empty. I discovered it quite by chance one day and have been smiling about it ever since.

Stupidity is infinitely more fascinating that intelligence. Intelligence has its limits while stupidity has none…

Claude Chabrol
 

It’s a contentious issue, but I can’t help feeling the powers that be have missed a trick with their immigration policies…

It’s bows and arrows against the lightning

They ‘aven’t seen that fire-beam yet…

Herbert George Wells, War of the Worlds

394934_10150749353871041_1787771566_nIn the Telegraph today, Douglas Carswell writes:

“For years, the debate about immigration has been dominated by “experts”.

“Complex and inaccessible data was used by remote academics. They crunched the numbers and were left to draw the conclusions. The rest of us had to take it on trust that the facts sustained what they told us.”

The Guardian’s Mary Dejevsky agrees somewhat and tells us [the] immigration debate is not just about numbers … We have to consider people’s daily experience too:

“[The] Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration at University College London, found arrivals from the European economic area (EEA) since 1995 to have been even more of an asset to the UK economy than previously thought. They had, it calculated, contributed £8.8bn over the 15 years between 1995 and 2011, and if you considered only the past 10 years, the balance was even more positive.”

However Steve Doughty from The Daily Mail, read the same report and interpreted it slightly differently, claiming that :

“Immigrants from outside Europe have taken £100billion more in benefits and services than they paid back in taxes, a major study revealed yesterday.

“Over a 16-year period, the bill to the taxpayer of providing them with welfare, health and education was 14 per cent higher than the money they put in the national purse.”

This is a problem— when our source material is provided by unimpeachable sources but the conclusions drawn from it are wildly disparate, I’m afraid either the nature of the data or the conclusions must be rendered as lacking validity. At least in a usable, practicable way. Studies ought to inform, not divide in such a binary manner.

This is not a new problem. In an article in Scientific American, Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise, Michael Shermer writes about the mechanisms that allow us to see such differences; it also alows us to see bunny rabbits in fluffy clouds— the same mechanism which results in ‘complex and inaccessible data’ being summarised and presented as fact, while ignoring that:

Unfortunately, we did not evolve a Baloney Detection Network in the brain to distinguish between true and false patterns.”

It is describing a form of apophenia: the ability we have to see what we want to see; or more simply, the ability to make sense when there is none.  In fact, the irony is, I too could be doing just that, but I’ll be describing how I perceive the opinion process in another post, I just wanted to get the Baloney Detection Network out there because I love it, just as much as Hemmingway’s bullshit detector. It’s more or less the same thing.

Anyway, no amount of numbers can alter the fact that immigration is simply someone moving from one place to another. So I ask you, simply

Why not just employ nightclub doormen as immigration officials?

Have you ever tried getting into a club if your name wasn’t on the list?

It’s just a thought…

A couple of weeks of reading and writing; writing and reading— commenting and what-have-you

I thought I’d just take a day today;

Such a lazy day…

marley mummyIt’s been fabulous; just spent it drinking tea and reading— watched a film on the other screen; managed a few emails; brushed the cat, twice; considered the weather with an eye on cutting the lawns. I thought about eating a chocolate bar at one point but decided against it. I did take a phone-call though— it’s been like a month of those irritating social-media status updates all rolled into one lazy day— I’ve really enjoyed it too. It’s given me the chance digest my first couple of weeks on this site.

It’s been a few years since I blogged regularly. Some things have changed, some haven’t— there’s a far greater seriousness in the tone of the average blogger than I remember, there are certainly many, many more than there ever were. I’ve certainly found some gems— some just bewildering, but in my experience that’s how most things appear to me: like gems or just bewildering.

One thing that hasn’t changed and I doubt is likely to in the immediate future, is that there are still smart people who cannot write and the not-so-smart who are just delicious to read. It’s the way it ought to be— ought, is— it doesn’t matter: writing isn’t a competition, like thinking isn’t exclusive to those who do it best. The two are separate animals thank goodness.

Perhaps we should all just check the egos at the door, because everyone’s doing exactly the same thing: having thoughts, making meaning, stringing-words— trying to make something happen, to inspire, react, create. Some are just trying to learn, to teach— but for a lot of guys it’s just about trying to understand themselves and the world around them. And it’s hard for them to find the words, but they try and you can read how difficult it is for them to do— but they do it anyway. There’s something wonderful in that.

For all the perfectly clipped and presented prose and essays and advice blogs and experts; there are a hundred of these guys; a hundred experiences, a hundred opinions and thoughts and expressions and feelings that’ve been agonised over just that little more than the rest.

I’m glad that not everything has changed.

Image: my nephew winning 1st prize for his creation…

If Teaching facts makes you a bad teacher, does rocking when you’re not stressed make you a bad autistic?

A monkey glances up and sees a banana, and that’s as far as he looks—

Eoin Colfer

Monkey tricks by VicaVersionOn perception:

One of my pet hates is when I hear educators moan about facts as if they were hazardous to health. I’ve heard them moan that they serve no purpose, that they’re a waste of time; outdated or are somehow superfluous; that it’s not proper teaching. There are numerous complaints, too many to list— however the median I seem to come across most, might as well be the very devil himself: the date:

1066, the Battle of Hastings;

1588 and the Spanish Armada

1805, Trafalgar and so on and so forth…

And to some degree I agree that there is a limited quality, albeit a limited re-usable quality to this type of knowledge. Personally, I love it, can’t get enough but that’s just me, give me more…

However, facts make learning easier. Facts give concept-based teaching context. Facts make learning more effective. This is not a judgement call, nor is it an opinion— unlike approaches based purely around concept, there is mountains of data which suggest that the use of facts as part of a learning strategy works; having a solid bank of knowledge regarding a particular topic, then makes conceptual-learning effective, not the other way around. The very notion that anyone can form long lasting contextual assessments on anything without knowing what it is they’re supposed to be contextualising is counter-intuitive— but this is one of the things modern teachers are taught to do, even though it flies in the face of most of the available evidence.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the ability to conceptualise is an imperative to successful learning; and the reasoning that the way it’s now used is ‘best’ and the way it should be done comes from reasonable sources— these are not stupid people. It just doesn’t work as they’d like it to work; it cannot work because the reasoning is built on whimsy, not the real world.

Facts: those concrete, unshakable units of information which are not subject to change are unpopular, when they should be the foundations upon which effective practices are built.

It’s difficult to understand why the idea of learning useful, relevant and re-usable information is so frowned upon— as a former practitioner, I do at least understand the potential difficulties involved in the presentation; I did all the time— but again, the median argument against it is just as unreasonable: we can’t just have kids reciting dates over and over…

Of course not— that really is stupid. Professional teachers should be able to incorporate some kind of fact-based content into their lessons if they are proficient in their subject, without the furore— they do it everyday to some degree as it is, but there’s just something about the word fact that they’re taught not to like. I would’ve taught in a dress if I had cold hard data suggesting cross-dressing made learning more effective; and that should be the only thing that matters. There are approaches which work and some which work better than others; some are just unpopular.

Now the reason I bring it up actually has nothing to do with teaching, but the underlying trait which shapes this particular issue.

It’s a packaging problem— rightly or wrongly our perception becomes this: so it’s gotta be true. It’s exactly the same problem we have with labels— some of which effectively describe certain people and conditions, but are wildly unpopular. Some of which are too accurate so a semantically broader variant is encouraged as preferable. Personally, I struggle with aspects of this— I don’t find words, tags or labels to be inherently functional without context. One of the problems of being concept-based people instead of substance based, will be an increased obsession with eradicating ‘offensive’ lexis, regardless of context. Which in itself, is an act I find deeply offensive.

Anyway, the catalyst for this came about from several sources, independent of which, I wouldn’t have had a contextual springboard to unite them— however when taken together, there are similarities which I think are fascinating.

The first was this article1, which recounts the author’s experiences with a couple of group sessions for adults on the autistic spectrum. She writes:

“I told the group about my own experiences in coming to terms with autism, about wanting to be autistic because it was the only thing that felt like all my experiences finally made some sense. About redirecting my energy and efforts towards things that would help me cope, instead of things that would make me appear normal. Allowing myself to be more visibly autistic.

“At those last words, the entire group gasped in shock … I’m not joking. I was the only one there who thought it wasn’t actually all that bad to be stimming in public.”

Now my first reaction was to try to empathise with group— some of whom were clearly uneasy with the author’s rocking but I couldn’t consolidate what it was about the article that was impressing upon me without resorting to speculation, despite the resonance of one of the questions: “If I don’t do things like that, then maybe I’m not actually autistic?”

It wasn’t until I read this post, that it all clicked into place: that, like some teachers’ point-blank refusal to accept that facts do not give you cancer, what I had in front of me was another packaging problem— which lead me to re-read the question as, I wouldn’t mind being autistic if I didn’t do things like that…

What struck me upon the second reading was an event from another session, which thanks to the second article, had even greater meaning in this context:

“[O]ne of them said to me that maybe I needed a time-out to calm down, because I was rocking back and forth so much. And when I said I was just focusing on the conversation, and not feeling anxious at all, he didn’t believe me.

Was she not believed because: autistics only rock when their stressed; or because ‘he’ only rocks when he’s stressed: so it’s gotta be true? It starts to become clear that across a wide range of things— how narrow and inflexible our associations can really be.

However, without Disabled, Not Broken2, I wouldn’t have written this at all. It finds the author posing a simple question and answering it by defining what he is and what he isn’t through a short exploration of language and its denotations: even the words which we use to define other words, which we then use to define who we are or what we think we are, aren’t always satisfactory contextually.

Add to that, that if you rock back and forth you are defined by your actions and emotional state: you must be autistic and you must need a time out. If you’re a teacher and heaven forbid you teach facts: you are defined by an historical context; that you’re out of touch, you’re doing something wrong and a bad practitioner. Perhaps, by the same reasoning: if you rock and you’re not stressed, it makes you a bad autistic?

In each case there are misconceptions based on a perception that has attributed to it, a value of some kind, so if you do it, think it, use it or say it, according to that perception: it’s gotta be true.

Right?

I don’t know, it’s just an observation—

But without a bank of knowledge to draw on, I wouldn’t have been able to get far.

Just a little background: noise & biography…

Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.

Bertolt Brecht

iuI read that and instinctly think cats. That’s biography.

I am fascinated by the heroic age of Antarctic expedition, history, education, great sex, openness, cats, cameras; the space race; sentence-structure, lexis, discourse conventions and phatic communication; cinema; the sounds of cricket and its numbers; golf swings, sortes, piropo, productivity, logical fallacies; fagottists— which leads to the double-o phoneme and coda-less syllables; falderals, nonsense; nanism— my fear of developing it and albino-clowns who already have. Ironing, long-sleeves, compound swearing, yellow pads, yoof-speak and linguistic representations— meh. Books, tea, science, feets, unnecessary plurals and corrugated-cardboard to name but a few.

It’s a pointless list because there isn’t much I’m not interested in. I like the feeling of insignificance in knowing how little I know; and how each little thing helps me know what I already know a little better.

And I still don’t know what this makes me, but it kind of works like this:

Perhaps it just makes me English since ‘England is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity … hobbies and humors.’1 Quite whether the world thinks we are small or great, but such is the context of opinion. Goethe wrote that, ‘people of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.’ Well spheres be damned as, ‘No one can be profoundly original who does not avoid eccentricity.’2 But to what end is thought’d: ‘eccentricity in small things [is] crazy’3 and though it ‘destroys reason, [it does] not [the] wit?’4

All I’m really trying to do here is to show a little of what it’s like to be autistic— from the ground up I’ve taken my traits and applied them to certain functions within the texts: from word orders and word types, semantic variances, repetitions and rhetorical devices— even archaic syntax to the very deliberate structure I use to present things. It’s not always easy to read and it’s not meant to be, It’s supposed to be a little overwhelming at times and take the reader in circles— but it’s a desirable difficulty designed to stimulate a little over-processing, in the same way real life does to me. It’s the only way I know how to present what it’s like to me: to demonstrate it, not write about it— especially when there are a million people out there able to just describe it so much better.

I was going to just post the blueprint, but thought the meta-language would just make it pointless— like the list…

I’m not just a linguist or educator or golfer or cricket fanatic or autistic or anything for that matter—

I’m just curious…

And I guess lists should be conspiculous by its absense, but it’s really not…

1 George Santayana
2 André Maurois
3 Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
4 Nathaniel Emmons